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Carter's View

Eastdil Realty has been retained by Host Marriott to sell the handsome, Swiss? Drake Hotel at 440 Park Avenue.

The 495-room hotel was built in 1927 and designed by Emery Roth.

Various press reports indicated it may be sold for conversion to condominium apartments and one report by Brandon Keil in the January 17, 2006 edition of The New York Post, quoted a "source familiar with the proceedings" as stating that "The Drake will be demolished for a condo or mixed-use building of close to 70 floors."

A mid-block addition to the hotel, which is on the northwest corner at 56th Street was erected in the 1960s.

It shares the Park Avenue blockfront with the handsome black office tower with arched windows at 450 Park Avenue.

A spokesman at the hotel had "no comment" when asked about the reports and calls by about the sale to executives at Eastdil Realty were not returned.

Mr. Keil's article said that the sale also involves air rights from some properties on 57th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.

If the site were to be demolished, it is conceivable that a new tower utilizing air rights might become the tallest building on Park Avenue north of the MetLife Building at 45th Street.

Another very tall mixed-use tower has been designed by Sir Norman Foster for Aby Rosen nearby at 610 Lexington Avenue on the southwest corner at 53rd Street behind the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue.

The Drake has a polished red-granite one-story base beneath two limestone stories. Fauchon is the retail tenant on Park Avenue. The 21-story, beige-brick building and three setbacks and handsome three-story columns supporting large broken pediments on its avenue frontage at the top of its base and attractive facade decorations at its top. It has a large entrance marquee on the side street with sidewalk landscaping and a large lobby. In the early 1960's, a nightclub and discotheque at the hotel, known as Shepheard's, handsomely outfitted with Egyptian-style d?r, became the city's first major public disco.

In their brilliant book, "New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Two World Wars," (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1987), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Martin and Thomas Mellins noted that "the apartment hotels of the 1920s fell into three notable categories: those that really did mix transient and resident tenants, and which were usually quite luxurious; those comparable in character to the era's typical side street apartment houses that catered to a sophisticated and more or less permanent tenantry, usually single people and childless couples, many of whom were actively pursuing business careers; and those aimed at the many young, unmarried white-collar workers who were moving into the city to pursue business and professional careers, and which offered minimal quality of accommodation. In the first category, the Park Lane, the Barclay, and the Drake on Park Avenue and the Dorset and the Lombardy in the west and east fifties were among the most elegant?.Emery Roth made a specialty of apartment hotels. The 1927 Drake at 440 Park Avenue?was in the superluxury category, with suites as large as twenty-eight rooms, large enough to constitute what Good Furniture described as 'a whole self-contained city house.'"

The hotel is not an official city landmark.

Recently hotels in prime locations have begun to be converted, in whole or in part, to condominium apartments. The Stanhope on Fifth Avenue and 81st Street and the Mark on East 77th Street and Madison Avenue, for example, are being fully converted, while the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue at Central Park South and the St. Regis Hotel at 2 West 55th Street are being partially converted.

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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.